Pumpkin-themed products are as synonymous with the fall season as knitted sweaters and rust-colored foliage, but there are volatile times ahead for the proverbial harvest-season patch. What started off as a seasonal Starbucks beverage morphed into a $600 million mega-market encompassing everything from eyeshadow palettes by the likes of TooFaced to sheet masks by Too Cool for School. However, recently brands and media outlets alike have deemed the category cancelled. Native discontinued its Pumpkin Spice Latte deodorant, running a bold advertisement in the New York Times which brands those using pumpkin-spiced scented products as having bad taste.
It begs the question: Has the food-themed fragrance hit its expiration date? Spate tells BeautyMatter that overall pumpkin spice searches (including beverage categories) were down by 62.9% since last year, with the strongest spike in searches for the category having happened around August 2019. While these numbers may indicate that interest is waning, many people still have a passion for pumpkin. As of July 2021, searches for said-themed candles are nonetheless up by 50% year-on-year, as are those for palettes (116%) and hair color (33%).
Mass-market brands are standing in pumpkin spice’s corner, defending its timeless and enduring appeal. Body care mammoth Bath & Body Works remains confident in the product category. Pumpkin-themed products have provided substantial fuel for the (recently independent) company’s growth. The brand introduced four different fragrances this year alone: Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin, Pumpkin Pecan Waffles, Marshmallow Pumpkin Latte, and Pumpkin Cupcake, bringing its offering of pumpkin fragrance varieties to an impressive 20 in total. “Pumpkin spice is one of the quintessential fall fragrances. There is a nostalgia to the smell that brings back memories of going to the pumpkin patch or Halloween, but also so many new takes on the scent that keeps customers coming back and trying something new,” Chelsea Zoellner, Manager Customer Insights, tells BeautyMatter. Zoellner sees the product category as especially popular for younger, school-age customers.
"Perfumers are twisting iconic pumpkin directions with unexpected ingredients and combinations to give them a new appeal and bring them to the next level."
By Taylor Perlis, Fragrance Application Evaluator, Yankee Candle
Bath & Body Works has one of the most expansive pumpkin ranges, stretching across candles, sanitizers, and room sprays, with gourmand fragrances leading the way. “The fall season always kicks off with a Pumpkin Spice Latte Candle, a cozy blend of pumpkin pie spice, fresh espresso, and whipped cream. Our customers also love our heritage fragrances like Pumpkin Pecan Waffles and Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin. Newer to the assortment, they are loving White Pumpkin, a creamy white pumpkin fragrance, mixed with ground spices and a hint of caramel glaze,” explains Lisa de Perio, Vice President Merchandising, Home Fragrance.
Amidst its supposed cancellation, the pumpkin-spice fragrance may simply reincarnate, as comforting scents remain a steadfast attraction, especially in current times. “Comfort food is a key olfactive trend for the upcoming fall season with nostalgic flavors that give an instant comfy feeling to consumers. Perfumers are twisting iconic pumpkin directions with unexpected ingredients and combinations to give them a new appeal and bring them to the next level. When you pair pumpkin with fresh green facets, sensual woods, or new spices, the fragrance instantly becomes more sophisticated,” proclaims Taylor Perlis, Fragrance Application Evaluator at Yankee Candle.
Perlis also notes aesthetic differences in pumpkin-spice product consumption between countries. “In the US, the olfactive direction is gourmand and sweet—think pumpkin donuts, cupcakes, pie, and PSL, while in the UK, the olfactive direction is toned down. Think pumpkin seeds, a fresh green pumpkin vine, or a spice pumpkin chai. Less sticky sweet and more fluffy, air,y and fresh,” she explains.
Whether consumers pass on pumpkin spice or continue to honor it as a marker of seasonal transitions remains a personal choice. Some deem it basic, others indispensable, but either way, the produce-themed products haven’t disappeared off our radars just yet. Only time will tell if it’s going to be a good or bad harvest.
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